Jun 21, 2011

As a Realistic Observer

I translated Haruki Murakami's speech "As an Unrealistic Dreamer" into English.

I think that his speech is sincere and I agree with his conclusion that that nuclear power generation should be stopped in Japan. But I don't agree with all of his speech, especially about ethics and norms of Japanese people. He made his speech "as an unrealistic dreamer", but I'll write this journal "as a realistic observer".

I strongly agree with president Obama's speech about nuclear abolition in Prague, and I never allowed nuclear attacks at Hirosima and Nagasaki, which was cruel and unethical. But I've not been able to sympathize with the anti-nuclear movement in Japan. My uncomfortable feeling about Murakami's speech might be common to the anti-nuclear movement.

In his speech there were two things, which I feel uncomfortable about.

Why did this happen? Where had our feeling of rejection of nuclear, which we had held after World War II, gone? What made our peaceful and wealthy society, which we constantly had been pursuing, spoiled?

The reason is simple. That is "efficiency".

The electrical power companies had been insisting that nuclear plants are efficient power generation system. It's the system that they were able to get profit from. And especially after the oil shock, Japanese government doubted the stability of supply of petroleum and had been promoting nuclear power generation as a national policy. The electrical power companies had spent huge money on advertisements to bribe the media to impress Japanese people with the illusion that nuclear power generation was completely safe.

I guess that the electric power companies, themselves, might not think that nuclear power generation was "efficient" system.

They've known very well how much money they have paid compensation to build nuclear power plants, used advertising expenses "to bribe the media" as Haruki Murakami said, and they would have to pay huge money to dispose nuclear wastes and decommission nuclear reactors. And they might also know how much damage the accident of the nuclear power plant would give and they would bear huge burden.

Why did the electric companies build nuclear power plants and have they been operating them?

The reason is simple. That is "supports of Japanese government".

Nuclear power plant system isn't totally "efficient". If electric companies bear all of the cost of nuclear power generation system, it's hard to think that they wouldn't select nuclear power generation as a business judgment. In fact Japanese government will pay the compensation of the accident of the Fukushima Dai-ich nuclear power plants for TEPCO. If they don't pay it, TEPCO will be bankrupt.

Japanese government has been promoting nuclear power generation system as a national policy. They have paid the cost, which the electric companies should primarily pay, and the electric companies are under the control of the government. So the nuclear power generation, which pure private company can't operate, was selected and operated by the electric power companies.

I'm a conservative of a Hayek way. I don't trust a rational decision of a few excellent persons, but I can trust more a collective decision, such as a tradition or market. If the government had not choice the policy of promoting nuclear power generation and they left it on the decision of market without privilege measures, the electrical power companies would never choice it because of high risks of it.

We, Japanese, should have been saying "No" to nuclear. This is my opinion.

We have to develop alternative energy replaced nuclear power at state level by gathering all of technologies, wisdom and social capital. If people all over the world laughed at us and said "Nuclear power is the most effective power generation system, and Japanese people are so silly that they don't use it," we have to keep the allergy to nuclear by the experience of nuclear bombs. We must have made the development of power generation without nuclear power the main policy after World War II.

This should be the way to take our collective responsibility for the victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These fundamental ethics and norms were necessary for us. We should send social messages, and this would have been a chance for our, Japanese, to contribute to the world truly. But we missed that important road, because we take an easy road of the standard of "efficiency" on our rapid economic development.

I don't like to link the problem of nuclear power generation with "the allergy to nuclear bombs" and I don't think of the nuclear power generation with the ethics for nuclear bombs and the victims of them.

Of course there are a lot of unethical aspects of nuclear power generation in Japan. Japanese government and urban population have impressed rural population with risks of nuclear power generation in return for huge subsidies. The government and electrical power companies ran a campaign for the safety of nuclear power generation, even though they actually knew its potential danger. There were the dubious flows of money related to building nuclear power plants. Nuclear power plants can’t be operated without many radiation-exposed lower labors, and they actually run without any plan of disposal of nuclear wastes. There is collusion between bureaucrats, politicians and big business, so called "an Atomic Village".

But should these ethical problems relate to "the allergy to nuclear bombs"? I don't think so. Can this kind of approaches prevent similar problems? I doubt it. Japan was dropped nuclear bombs and an earthquake country. The fact that Japan is inappropriate for nuclear power plants because of frequent earthquakes is independent of the experience of nuclear attacks in World War II. There may be a lot of places where are inappropriate for nuclear power plants for many reasons, but how do they stop the nuclear power plant there? At least it isn't "a collective responsibility for the victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki".

Russians, who caused Chernobyl catastrophe and is promoting export of nuclear power plants now, should be blamed ethically. Do they really access enough the technological safety of their nuclear power plants and operation of their plants by people of the countries where they export plants? It's also true of Japanese nuclear plant manufactures.

But the experiences of nuclear attacks have deep and ethical relationship with nuclear weapons. Japanese people have strong consensus against the possession of nuclear weapons supporting by the experiences of nuclear attacks.

Although Japanese army doesn't have nuclear weapons, we are under the nuclear umbrella of US army and we actually permit US army to bring nuclear weapons into their bases in Japan. This fact is unethical, but it is a quite difficult problem between ethics and national security. Although I feel guilt, I accept the fact that we are under the nuclear umbrella positively. I think that passive acceptance and implicit assumption are unfair.


  1. Hello again,
    Enjoying your posts, you write beautifully
    When I'm next in Tokyo I'd like to buy a beer.. or when you're next in Paris....
    a fellow stone age guy